Coachspeak with James Franklin: Does beating Pitt really help PSU in recruiting?
A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference.
Opponent: Pitt (1-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, noon, Beaver Stadium
About the Panthers: Pat Narduzzi led team to ACC title game last year, winning Coastal Division, despite getting destroyed by PSU earlier in the year, 51-6. … QB Kenny Pickett has 506 yards passing in two games and completing 60 percent. … They can always run the ball well, and A.J. Davis (114 yards in two games) is top threat. … WR Maurice Ffrench has 16 catches for 192 yards. … Defense took major hits when linemen Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp were lost for season with injuries during camp.
Last time vs. Penn State: Lions clobbered Panthers in the rain last year at Heinz Field, 51-6.
Line: Penn State is favored by 17; over/under is 53.5.
Winning over recruits: It’s assumed by most people that if Penn State can beat Pitt on the field, then it helps the Nittany Lions beat the Panthers in recruiting, too. Franklin said he hears that a lot and has a different outlook on it. “Obviously winning helps,” he said. “The environment helps. But I don’t think one game swings you. I don’t think kids are choosing Penn State because of one game. I don’t think kids are choosing another school because of one game. Do guys want to be a part of winning programs? Yes. Do guys want to play in front of 107,000? Yes. Do guys want to go to a school where they can get a great education? Yes. All those things factor in.” Franklin pointed out PSU lost to Pitt in 2016 and still had a good recruiting class. “I don’t know if (winning this game is) as significant as people may think,” he said. “Do we want to win the game? Yeah. Do we think it helps? Yeah. But I don’t think it’s the end all, be all.”
Familiar face on other side: Senior safety John Petrishen transferred from PSU to Pitt in August, and now the two teams are playing a month later. That rarely has happened in college sports, because coaches wouldn’t allow players to transfer to an upcoming opponent. Now, though, it is possible because of new rules regarding the transfer portal. “This is exactly why, for years, coaches were against the transferring within conferences or games on your schedule,” Franklin said. “I think the problem with it is that, as we all know, some people abused it, and they were denying kids everywhere that they wanted to go, and that shouldn’t happen. But what happened is we overcorrected. We went from being able to deny them everywhere to now not being able to deny them anywhere. So it’s problematic. That’s why people have no-competes and things like that.”
Changing signals: Because Petrishen knows all of Penn State’s signals and is now on the other team, the Lions have had to change things up. “When (he transferred), we knew that we were going to have to make some changes at that point,” Franklin said. “So we have changed. We didn’t wait till this week to do it. We did it right when that was announced. But obviously we had to change all of our signals, especially on defense and on offense, as well, but especially on defense because he knows all of our signals.”
Noon starts not ideal: This is a big game and it’s at noon, which isn’t PSU’s best-case scenario. “The ideal situation — for us, for college football, for the Big Ten, for this town — is to have as many 3:30 games and 7 o’clock games as possible,” Franklin said. “I just think it’s good for the Big Ten. I think it’s good for college football. I know it’s good for this town. It just makes it easier for people to get here. But we have such a passionate fan base, they will be here no matter what. But obviously it takes a different plan. Either you’re going to have to come in the night before, or you’re going to have to get up really early in the morning.”
Buffalo punter update: Evan Finegan suffered a broken right leg during Saturday’s game when he was hit by PSU’s Journey Brown, who tipped the punt, so there was no penalty. Finegan stayed behind in State College and underwent surgery. He was visited in the hospital by Franklin and several PSU players, including punter Blake Gillikin and Hollidaysburg product Vlad Hilling. Franklin wished Finegan well again Tuesday. Finegan posted pictures of himself with the PSU players on Twitter from the hospital and wrote: “I want to thank the entire Penn State community for taking me in as their own. Thank you @coachjfranklin for the support from your family and team. Also I want to thank the Penn State specialist for constantly checking in on me. I appreciate the sincere concern.”